Hans Christian Oersted was a Danish physicist and chemist who revolutionized the arena of electromagnetism by discovering that the electric currents can produce magnetic fields. His 1820 discovery of piperine, the pungent component that causes the hotness of pepper, and his 1825 formulation of metallic aluminum, are considered significant contributions in the history of chemistry.
Early Life and Education
Born in Rudkobing to a chemist father, Hans Oersted, surrounded by scientific apparatus, showed an early interest in science. After attending the University of Copenhagen, he traveled throught Europe to meet some of the leading scientists of the world. Oersted received his doctorate in 1799.
Contributions and Achievements
Oersted learnt a lot during the tours and, in 1806, he took a job at his old university. He also gave lectures which were quite popular among the public. During one such lecture in April 1820, Oersted carried out an experiment that was never performed before. He placed a compass underneath a wire and then turned on electric current. The needle of the magnetized compass showed movement.
Oersted recognized the significance of what he had just done. Earlier, it was believed that electricity and magnetism were two different forces. Oersted had demonstrated that they were interconnected. Some scientists, influenced by this experiment, continued with the modern field of “electromagnetism”. Their research resulted in several new scientific theories and various vital inventions like the dynamo and the electric motor.
Oersted was made a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1822.
Later Life and Death
In 1829, Hans Christian Oersted established “Den Polytekniske Læreanstalt” (English: College of Advanced Technology), which is now known as the Technical University of Denmark (DTU).
Oersted died at Copenhagen, Denmark in 1851. He was 73 years old. He was buried in the Assistens Cemetery.
Copley Medal (1820)